Ben Webb (artist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Benedict (Ben) Webb (18 May 1976 – 22 September 2014) was a Dunedin, New Zealand-born artist, dividing his time between working in New Zealand and Germany. He was the son of New Zealand barrister Maurice Knuckey and New Zealand artist Marilynn Webb , and grew up surrounded by many of the top New Zealand artists of that country's "golden era" of modern art; among his godparents was Ralph Hotere.[1]

Working largely with a mixture of oil and metallic pigments, Webb's work took old photographs as its starting-point. His images are frequently portraits from Weimar Germany in the years preceding World War II, although he has also employed still lifes as subject matter.[2] These photographic images are recreated in large format, then distressed by the addition of pigment to form works which evoke strong reactions of melancholy or nostalgia, both in terms of their subject matter and their treatment. His work has been compared to the "gaudily tragic" Neue Sachlichkeit expressionist art of the Weimar era, with portraits of " figures whose faces seem to express the unbearable heaviness of a past trapped behind their eyes,"[3] creating images of faces that are "feral, yet knowing."[4] His works rely heavily on chiaroscuro effect, with the negative space of the blackened backgrounds becoming presences in their own right.[5]

His earlier hand painted works are now very collectable but are very hard to find.[citation needed] Webb started exhibiting his work at the age of 19, and was the youngest New Zealand artist to have shown in a public gallery and to represent the country in a biennale, in Nouméa in 1999. He held Berlin's Goethe Institut residency in 2002 and has exhibited in Australia, Argentina, Australia, Germany, and Sweden as well as in his native New Zealand.[6] Webb died at Aramoana on 22 September 2014, aged 38.[7]


  1. ^ Benson, Nigel (26 February 2009). "Prince of dark arts". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  2. ^ Dignan, James (24 September 2009). "Art seen: Every cloud has a silver lining". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  3. ^ Dignan, James (5 March 2009). "Heart of glass". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  4. ^ Eggleton, D. "Night Has a Thousand Eyes: The Photographic Appropriations of Ben Webb", Art New Zealand 123, Winter 2007.
  5. ^ "Ben Webb," Jonathan Smart Galleries.
  6. ^ "Ben Webb," Gallery De Novo
  7. ^ "Ben Webb dies", Otago Daily Times, 24 September 2014. p.5

External links[edit]